Special Thanks to cpsings4him for beta reading.
When Adventure Knocks
Chapter One: Things Arranged
3. Forelithe 1374
Frodo sniffed the air of the parlour ponderingly and glanced into the kitchen. His mother sat at the kitchen table spreading some jam on two slices of bread. His stomach grumbled - obviously unimpressed by the fact that it was only one hour past breakfast. It was high time for a snack. He ran to his mother and wanted to take a slice but before he could grab one his mother slapped his fingers. "They are for your father. He hasn't had anything for breakfast yet. I can make you one later." Frodo looked disappointed but nodded.
As soon as he wasn't occupied with his second breakfast anymore the strange smell he had noticed before attracted his attention once again. He glanced over to the stove where a kettle hung just above the fire. Steam was rising from its spout. Frodo wrinkled his nose. "What's this?"
His mother smiled at him and walked over to take the kettle from the fire. "It's sage tea for your father. He has a sore throat and feels rather sick today."
Frodo grimaced in disgust. He couldn't stand the taste of sage. The mere thought of being sick and having to stay abed all day, drinking sage tea made him shiver. His father must feel really terrible if he endured tea and blankets and having breakfast brought to his bed. Frodo grinned. It was by all means possible that he could get used to the last idea. If his mother would bring his breakfast to his room even if he was well? Before he could ask his question he felt his mother's gentle hand resting on his forehead. He frowned and looked up at her quizzically.
Primula Baggins didn't miss her son's trembling. She raised an eyebrow and quickly dried her hands with her pinafore before laying a testing palm on his forehead. Luckily she didn't notice any warmth. "Are you feeling well, dear?"
Realizing where she was driving at Frodo dodged from her hand and nodded frantically. "I'm not ill," he declared looking at her with the brightest and, what he thought, most healthy-looking smile he could manage. After a short pause he added "I'm outside." And with that he dashed out of the kitchen not risking any more examinations.
"Take care," she called after him knowing very well that Frodo heard her although he did not answer. Smiling to herself she went back to lading a tray with tea and a plate with the slices of bread she had spread earlier, before heading for the room she shared with her husband.
Drogo Baggins and his small family lived in a comfortable hobbithole near Bywater. His wife and son were all his pride and nothing could trouble his contented life - until that very day in Forelithe when the last airs of spring were mingling with the first warm breezes of summer, and birds twittered in the branches of verdant trees in the sparkling sun of the early morning. On this morning Drogo woke up coughing and with a sore throat. His temperature was slightly warmer than usual and his concerned wife quickly advised him to stay in bed.
While Primula got up to arrange breakfast for their son, Drogo had drifted back to sleep. To his dismay he felt a headache begin when he woke up not long before Primula re-entered the room with a tray in her hands. Her light brown hair shimmered in the morning sun which was shining through the small round window just above the shelf where she placed the tray. Primula turned to him, a smile brightening her face - the very smile that always reminded him of how much he loved her. "How are you feeling?" she asked, coming to his side and sitting down beside him.
Drogo could not answer.. He was overwhelmed by a coughing fit that made his head feel as if someone was pounding against it with a heavy hammer. Drogo moaned in dismay and, closing his eyes, he pressed one hand on his temple hoping that this would ease his pain. Fortunately it helped a little and when the fit passed and the hammers stopped their hard work, Drogo pushed himself into a sitting position.
Primula didn't need another answer than the one she had already got. Looking at her husband sympathetically she used her right hand to stroke one of his dark brown curls from his forehead and caressed his cheek. "I have brought you some breakfast," she said in a low voice. "I would have returned early, but when I checked on you after breakfasting with Frodo, you were asleep again."
A smile crossed her lips when Drogo looked at her with a guilty expression that reminded her very much of her son. Frodo would give her that same look whenever he had been up to something and she had caught him just a second before any harm was done. He would look at her with those dangerous eyes of his, so she would need all her willpower not to give in and just pull him into a warm hug. Drogo's expression had the same effect on her, though his eyes were not half as perilous as Frodo's.
Primula chuckled and kissed her husband's forehead. "I have also made some sage tea which should ease the pain in your throat. Does it still hurt?"
When he nodded Primula got up to hand him the cup of tea which Drogo gladly accepted. He sipped the steaming liquid carefully while Primula also handed over the plate with the slices of bread.
Drogo eyed the food suspiciously then shook his head. He didn't feel like eating. All his body was in pain and every bite meant more pain for his aching throat. Not wanting to risk any further uneasiness the thought of skipping a meal started to appeal to him. "I'm not hungry," he said giving both, tea and plate, back to his wife.
"You will eat at least one slice," Primula declared handing the plate back. "What should Frodo think of you if I tell him that his father rejected his breakfast? You don't want to frighten your child, do you?" Noticing the shaken expression crossing her husband's face she winked. "Besides, I'm sure you don't want me to worry needlessly."
A sigh escaped Drogo's lips and he closed his eyes to avoid the look Primula gave him. It was a cunning look mingled with a whiff of defiance and he knew all too well that he had no chance to convince her that he felt no urge to eat. Before he could answer another fit of coughing shook his body and he arrived at the conclusion that sighing had not been the best way to express his feelings. The hammers in his head were back at work when Primula handed him the cup again and he took another sip of the tea.
When he looked at his wife her eyes were again full of sympathy. "Take at least some bites," she begged, "and I promise, I will not tell Frodo." Primula winked and he could not help grinning at that.
Drogo took a small bite of one of the breads with jam and earned a bright smile from his wife. "Speaking of Frodo, where is the lad?"
"He is outside," Primula told him chuckling. "I think he wants to make sure that I don't declare him for ill as well. He looked quite scared when I tested his temperature some minutes ago." Seeing her husbands questioning look she added. "He's well and as healthy as I could wish him to be."
"I prefer that doesn't change," Drogo answered interrupted by coughing. "I don't want to pass anything on to him. Maybe it would be better to bring him to a relative for some days."
Primula pondered his words for a moment. Drogo looked rather pale and he was losing his voice quite quickly. After every coughing it sounded hoarser than before. Maybe Drogo was right and it would be better if Frodo wasn't at home for some days - just to be sure he would not catch the illness as well. Besides, Primula didn't even know yet, what her husband suffered from. Maybe he would be better tomorrow and she could take Frodo back home. The thought of giving her young son away for longer than one afternoon didn't please her, but it would be better than having him at home, bedridden and sore.
"I'm sure Bilbo could look after him for some days," Drogo said casually while handing the plate back to her. He had only eaten half a slice.
"No," Primula shook her head. "Not Bilbo."
"Why not? He has looked after Frodo before."
"No," Primula repeated. "You know, I like Bilbo and I know he has looked after Frodo before but--" she paused giving him a sullen look. "He's a bachelor after all, and although he does a good job in looking after Frodo for an afternoon, I'm not sure if he is the right one to care for him for several days."
Drogo smiled at her and sank back into his pillows after taking the last sip of his tea. She looked very much like Frodo when she was in a defiant mood. Yet the sullen expression on her face gave way to concern and he hoped he could shatter those worries quickly. He was in no fit state to argue with her. "Bilbo loves Frodo. No harm would come to him in Bag End. Frodo, too, is very fond of his cousin, seeing in more an uncle than the cousin Bilbo is - you know that. I'm sure he would be happy if he could spend some time in Bag End. Bachelor or no, Bilbo can look after a child like Frodo. Besides, he is the one of our relatives living closest." Drogo hoped very much that, if not the other things he said, the last argument would convince his wife that Bilbo was the best choice for Frodo to stay.
Primula looked at him for a very long time. On other days Drogo might have known what was on her mind but on this morning he was too tired and could do nothing but wait for an answer. The sun sparkled in her curls when she got up and silently placed the teacup and the plate on the tray again. Drogo closed his eyes fearing that he already knew her answer and that Frodo would probably stay at home.
"All right," she suddenly said and Drogo opened his eyes again. "I will take him to Bilbo afterwards."
"I'm sure you won't regret your decision." The smile he gave her was interrupted by a coughing fit.
Primula didn't tell her husband but she still had her doubts about Bilbo. There was no denying that she liked Bilbo but he didn't seem to be the right person to look after a child. Yet she had seen him many times playing with Frodo. The two of them always rejoiced in being together. Still, she hoped that she could take Frodo back home soon, no matter how much Bilbo knew about minding children - especially a child like Frodo.. Not that Frodo was much different from other boys his age but he was her child and that made him special enough.
A in the middle of the Baggins family's garden a small pond reflected the golden light of the morning sun. The air was filled with the odour of lilac and the sound of young birds. A light wind was blowing while Frodo was standing under the branches of the lilac tree, his eyes full of excitement. A sparrow had built his nest in the twigs of the tree and now three hungry little birds were chirping for their mother to bring them food.
Frodo walked backwards to have a better view at the young birds when his toes suddenly touched water. Inhaling sharply the young hobbit looked at his feet and stepped out of the pond again when his eyes suddenly grew wide. Small animals which looked like tiny balls of wool with a loose thread were swimming in the pond with a snaky movement.
Frodo knelled down and glanced at them in awe. He had seen animals like this before. How did his father call them? Tadpoles? Yes, it must have been tadpoles and in some time - if weeks or even months he did not remember - these tadpoles would become frogs. A broad grin was on the young hobbit's face when he drove his hand into the water to catch a tadpole, but the slimy animals slipped from his fingers and swam away. Frodo giggled in delight and followed the swarm of tadpoles. Ever and anon he tried to catch one but he soon found out that one hand did not suffice. Sitting down on a stone on the edge of the pond, Frodo placed both his feet in the water. Mud tickled between his toes and he dug them deeper into the sludge on the pond's ground. With his hands he formed a bowl and dipped them into the water.
Motionless he waited like this with a broad grin on his face until the tadpoles that had fled from his feet returned. As soon as one of the tiny animals got astray just above his hands Frodo captured it. "Mommy!" With a dart he jumped up, almost toppling over and dashed into the hobbithole where he called for his mother again.
Primula, mistaking her son's delight for fear, dashed out of Frodo's room where she had been packing some cloths he would need during his stay at Bag End. "Frodo, what is it, dear? What happened?"
"Look!" Frodo cried out happily as he stood by her side and proudly presented her the tadpole that was wriggling helplessly in his palms. "It's a baby-frog! The pond is full of them. There are hundreds and --"
Primula draw in a breath as she recognised the mess her son had left behind with his muddy feet and the water dripping from his hands. "Mommy?" Frodo frowned and looked at her expectantly. "Look!" he asked again holding up his arms so she could see the contents of his palm better.
"Oh, Frodo," she sighed and her son's brow creased at the sound of her voice. He let his hands sink but without forgetting to see to it that the wriggling animal in the hole of his hands did not escape. "Look at that mess!" she sighed again and shook her head but then her tone softened and for a moment she smiled. "It's a wonderful tadpole but bring it back to the pond. And clean your feet and your face when you're outside."
Frodo, who had been looking over his shoulders and grimaced at the mud traces he saw, smiled at his mothers words. He quickly nodded and ran back into the garden where he dipped his hands into the pond again and watched as the tadpole swam away.
When Primula came into the garden some minutes later, Frodo was sitting beside the draw well and splashed his feet into a bucket filled with water. He smiled when he noticed her coming and waved at her but then his brow creased and he looked questioningly at the backpack she carried in her hand. "Where are you going?"
She smiled. "Not me - you will be going. You will spend some days with your uncle Bilbo until your father is better."
"Uncle Bilbo?" Frodo squealed with glee and jumped up to hug his mother. "Shall we bring him some tadpoles? He has a big garden and there is surely a place where some of our tadpoles can live."
Primula smiled and shook her head. "No, Frodo. I don't think your uncle would like to have frogs in his garden. Besides, tadpoles live in the water. They are happier in our little pond than in your uncle's garden."
"But Bilbo could make a pond, couldn't he? A huge pond for thousands and thousands of tadpoles," Frodo waved his hands to put his statement into words and grinned broadly at his mother.
"Go on," she laughed and lightly slapped his bottom as they trotted down to the road that should lead them to Hobbiton.
They arrived at Bag End on time for Elevenses. Bilbo had led them into the kitchen where he offered them tea and some biscuits he had made the day before. Frodo ate them greedily and for a moment he even forgot the tadpoles he wanted to tell his uncle about. Primula took her chance to tell Bilbo the reason for her visit. "I would be glad if he could stay here for a week or so," she finished her explanation. She still had her doubts about Bilbo, but her husband was right: Bilbo loved Frodo and only wanted his best, just like she did.
"Of course he can stay!" Bilbo called out. "That's no problem at all, is it, my lad?" He ruffled Frodo's curls making the child giggle. "I'm sure we will get along well, don't you worry. Just you look that Drogo is back on his feet soon."
"I definitely will," she smiled at him before turning her attention to her son who was nibbling at one of the biscuits and listened to their conversation curiously. Without taking her eyes off him, she absently tipped the backpack she had brought with her. "Here is some extra-clothing and some of his toys - I'm sure you will need them." She fell silent and locked on to her son's gaze, making him blush and quickly averting his eyes. "Don't always trust the innocent look in his eyes," she told Bilbo and looked at the old hobbit again. "He's up to something more often than one thinks. And if anything happens --"
Bilbo laid a hand on her shoulder. "Nothing will happen, Prim. I'll look after him. Put aside your concerns and concentrate on caring for your husband. Frodo will be all right."
Bilbo winked at Frodo and grinned before leading Primula to the door and opened it for her. "Send Drogo my best wishes."
Nodding she sighed "Thank you, Bilbo," and bent her knees to kiss her son's cheek and whisper into his ear: "Goodbye, my love. Be a good lad now and listen to what your uncle tells you."
Frodo nodded and hugged her tightly as he kissed her cheek as well. "Goodbye, mommy."
Primula often turned to look back at her son who was standing beside Bilbo and waved at her. The old hobbit had laid an arm on his shoulder and watched her with a smile on his face. Primula sighed. "He is in good hands," she told herself and hoped she was not mistaken.